England have never tasted cup success since their World Cup triumph way back in 1966. But on November 21, 2007, they stooped to their new low when they failed to qualify for the Euro 2008 after a 2-3 defeat at the hands of Croatia in the qualifiers. This was the first time England failed to qualify for the Euros in 24 years.
Manager Steve McClaren took a huge gamble in the beginning when he dropped goalkeeper Mark Robinson and midfielder David Beckham to the bench. Scott Carson took over for England between the sticks. England went into the match with the midfield trio of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry, with Shaun Wright-Philips and Joe Cole on either flanks.
Things did not go according to plan for England as their goalkeeper Carson made a huge blunder as a Nico Kranjcar’s shot from distance went through the English goalkeeper, giving Croatia a 1-0 lead in the 8th minute. Things got much worse when Croatian forward Ivica Olic beat the offside trap to put Croatia 2-0 up in the 14th minute of the match. England were now 0-2 down and needed at least a draw to progress to the Euro 2008.
Croatia went into half-time 2-0 up and Beckham came on to make his 99th appearance for his country and the match slowly started to tilt in England’s favour. England were awarded a lifeline when Jermaine Defoe was brought down in the Croatian penalty box. Neither Gerrard nor Beckham stepped up, but it was Lampard, who stepped up and dispatched the ball in the bottom left corner to bring England back into the game. England needed to get a goal from somewhere with a little over half an hour to go.
Things could have been much worse for England had Olic found the back of the net in the 58th minute. But as it turned out, a deflection of Wayne Bridge took the ball over the ‘keeper, only the hit the crossbar. A couple of good saves in the second half from Carson kept England in the game.
The hosts did get the equaliser when a delightful ball from Beckham found Peter Crouch in the penalty box and the forward controlled the ball well and slotted it into the net in the 65th minute. England were level at 2-2. If the scoreline remained like this, England would make it to the Euros. But destiny had other plans.
12 minutes after the equaliser, substitute Mladen Petric drilled the ball into the far corner to restore Croatia’s lead. As Croatia celebrated, Wembley was stunned and so were England’s support staff. England still had 13 minutes or so to find a reply, but that never came. England, as a result, finished third in the Group E table. Russia’s slender 1-0 win over Andorra took them above England to No. 2 in the table. As a result, Croatia and Russia made it to the Euro 2008.
McClaren was sacked as England manager soon after the match. Fabio Capello was named the new England manager. As it stands, McClaren’s reign was the second shortest tenure as England manager – 18 games in 16 months. Sam Allardyce bettered that record as was sacked after just 67 days, having been in charge for just one match
Spain won the Euro 2008, co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland.